Cappadocia – A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

A friend and I had spent the day in the ancient ruined city of Ephesus with an incredible and informative guide that filled my soul, my heart and my fascination with wonder. You can download a personalised soul travel e-booklet guide of Ephesus full of historical insights here, for the price of a coffee.

Leaving Ephesus we made our way to the Izmir Adnan Menderes airport in the Gaziemir district of the Izmir province approx. 45 mins drive to catch a flight to Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport then a bus to Cappadocia.

The stunning and unique landscape of the Cappadocia region together with its many thousands years of cultural heritage make it one of the most impressive and remarkable places on our planet. Cappadocia is located 14 km from the township of Nevsehir and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985 that includes the Göreme Open Air Museum, the Zelve Open Air Museum and many other valleys peppered with history and various rock sites of Cappadocia.

The landscape around the Cappadocia region covering 40 sq km lies between the townships of Avanos and Ürgüp and was formed around 60 million years ago following the volcanic eruptions of Mount Erciyes, Mount Hasan and Mount Güllü covering the outer landscape with soft layers of lava and ash. Across the whole region there are many distinctive rock formations that are seen today that have been sculpted by erosion from wind and rain.

The Göreme valley and much of the surrounding area have a number of religious sanctuaries that were carved from the rock surface and provide unique evidence of Byzantine art from the 8th to 11th centuries. Various dwellings, rock cut out (troglodyte) villages and underground cities are found throughout the region, bearing the remains of traditional human habitation dating back to the Palaeolithic Age. This period is also known as the Stone Age. The word palaeolithic comes from the Greek word ‘Palaios’, “old” and “lithos”, ‘stone’, meaning “old age of the stone”, therefore ‘Old Stone Age’.

Our travel, accommodation and balloon flight were pre arranged and booked by a local travel agent, eye witness travel in Istanbul. Arriving in Göreme late evening, and ready for a restful and rejuvenating night’s sleep in a stone house, and waking to amazing views from the balcony.

Derinkuyu Village | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

It’s day one of our four nights stay and we’re on our way as a small group tour (there was just the two of us) with a personal guide. It’s early March and there are less tourists/travellers around.  Out on the open Nevşehir – Niğde road we passed the snow capped Mount Erciyes that is also a visible backdrop to the village of Derinkuyu and the underground city of Derinkuyu, previously known as Elengubu.

The enormous underground city, and at the time of my visit consisted of 20 levels that have been found by archaeologists, however only eight levels are accessible to the general public. We learn that the Derinkuyu multi-layered underground city was the deepest cave inhabited dwelling in the Cappadocia region at a depth of approx. 85 metres (280 ft.) and could occupy approx. 20,000 inhabitants during times of enemy invasion. What’s more prior to the 1830s there wasn’t even an above ground settlement in the area of Derinkuyu. The Turkish word Derinkuyu means, deep well and was given this name as the above ground village has 52 drinking water wells around 60-70 metres deep that had serviced those who once lived below ground.

It is unclear who created the first stages of the underground city, however common belief is that the underground city was built and inhabited during the 8-7th centuries BC by the Phrygians, who carved their living space into the soft volcanic rock deep under the ground.

The Phrygians originally migrated from the Trace region that once formed modern day Bulgaria, the southern region of Romania and the furthest northern region of Greece during antiquity with the vast majority of what was Tracian land now forming part of modern day Bulgaria.

It has also been found that this massive underground city was in use by various inhabitants; people of various Christian faith who took refugee from vying empires/dynasties during the Arab-Byzantine wars between 780-1180 BC; Mongolian invasions during 1241–1243 and then taking control in 1255; before the subsequent Ottoman wars.

As late as the 20th century, the local population of Christian Cappadocian Greeks were still taking refuge in the underground cities to escape periodic persecutions by the Ottoman Turks.

It was during 1923 that the Christian inhabitants of the underground city of Derinkuyu and other underground cities in the Cappadocia region where expelled from Turkey and relocated to Greece as part of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, thus the underground city of Derinkuyu and others underground city’s were abandoned.

It wasn’t until 1963 that the underground city of Derinkuyu was rediscovered by a curious villager who by all accounts kept losing his chickens. When renovating his home he found a small pass in the wall that would have easily allowed a chicken to pass through. Deciding to investigate, he started digging, only to find an open room behind a wall in his home. He continued digging to find access to another room adjoining the first, then another room that connected to the tunnel network below. This was the first of more than six hundred entrances that adjoined private homes in the immediate area and subsequently lead to re-finding the sub terrestrial underground city of Elengubu.

Arriving at the village of Derinkuyu I first noticed a church that was positioned opposite the entrance to the underground city. The Greek Orthodox Agios Theodoros Trion that was once the local church of the Cappadocian Greek residents of Malakopea (Μαλακοπέα). Malakopea was the original name during the Byzantine era and the 4th century for what is today known as Derinkuyu. Sadly today this beautiful architectural designed church that was built in 1858 stands abandoned, since the population exchange in 1923. I learn that once a year Greeks from across the world gather at the church for a special annual service. After visiting the underground city, I take a walk over to the church to find that unfortunately the church was closed.

Agios Theodoros Trion Derinkuyu Village | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Yeralti Sehri (Underground City) Agios Theodoros Trion Derinkuyu Village | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient LandDescending via the narrow passage into the ancient underground city of Elengubu our guide shares that Elengubu (Derinkuyu) is one of a number of underground cities that were once inhabited with other locations being re-found across the Cappadocia region.

I learn that there are approx. 200 smaller formerly inhabited underground (village style) locations that have been re-discovered.

It is thought that maybe the tunnels form a connected network between Derinkuyu city and other underground city and village locations, creating an enormous subterranean network. An interesting concept that brings to light a complete shift in thought of today’s aboveground urbanisation.

Yeralti Sehri (Underground City) Agios Theodoros Trion Derinkuyu Village | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

With the various cultural populations who took refugee over time the city had undergone a number of transformations.

Within the enclosed fenced area is one noteworthy change where the vertical shafts that were originally built to only pass minimal light as air shafts where widened to accommodate the movement of larger quantities’ of goods. At the time of writing a total of 52 vertical shafts and an additional 15,000 smaller ventilation shafts have been recorded in Derinkuyu underground city.

Derinkuyu (Underground City) Derinkuyu Village | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Continuing further down underground through tunnels of narrow stairways our guides is sharing that the cave like rooms extend for many, many miles.

Derinkuyu (Underground City) Derinkuyu Village | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

We then find ourselves on another level down that contains one of the kitchen areas and evidence of a charred blackened area and ceiling from many, many years of cooking.

Derinkuyu (Underground City) Derinkuyu Village | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Down further and passing through a maze of smaller rooms, which our guide suggests was possibly a dry food storage area.

As we continued through each tunnel to each floor, I for one am grateful for the 21st century modernisation of lighting. During antiquity times lighting was created by pouring linseed oil into the small cavities within the stone and setting alight.

Passing through another underground level that contained the city’s ventilation channels, and waterways connecting to the water wells, cisterns and cemeteries…

…. then down another level to the small church.

During the ongoing excavations a large number of underground dwellings were re-found, together with live stock stables, a small school near the church and cemetery, dining rooms, kitchens, presses for olive oil and grapes, and wine cellars. For hundreds of years an entire population of people who had everything they needed were safely nestled away from the treat of invasion by waring enemies.

Derinkuyu (Underground City) Derinkuyu Village | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient LandThe enemies of the underground inhabitants were aware of the dangers that lie hidden within the extensive underground city and were known for trying to flush out the inhabitants by poisoning the city’s water wells.

To prohibit enemies from descending through the tunnels, the tunnels were carved shorter in height before reaching the lower floor entrance, thereby enemy intruders needed to bend there head forward to pass only to be killed or wounded by those who were guarding the entrances.

Further, to ensure enemies couldn’t advance through the tunnels to the lower living area floors and the important ventilation and water well floor; there are three floor levels were the entrance can be sealed by a 1- 1.5 metre circular stone door. These heavy stone doors that also resemble olive oil gridding stones are known as millstone doors or Tiğraz (Turkish) and weighed approx. 500 kgs. The Tiğraz were positioned close to the smaller and narrower door entrance and was only just passable by one person thus protecting the underground city inhabitants.

Ingenious!!!

 

Note: me ducking my head as we ascend the underground city shows the height of the tunnel…and I’m quite short.

It’s time to return to the above ground entrance and continue to explore and experience the wonders of the many sites across the Cappadocia region.

Our shared world is filled with abundant and unique landscapes, above and below. There are still many unknown mysteries that lie beneath and much to learn about the underground city of Derinkuyu and other underground cities in the region.

Ihlara Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Back on the open road with sights of the snow capped Mount Erciyes, we travel a short forty minute drive before reaching the Ihlara Valley and also known as ‘The valley of Monks and Pigeons’.

The stunning 15 km long and 150 m deep landscape of Ihlara Valley, was once also known as Peristrema Valley and was formed by the Melendiz River during prehistoric times and lies between the villages of Ihlara and Selime with the village of Belisarma, formerly known as Peristrema (meaning winding round) during earlier Greek times is located in the middle of the path between the two outer villages.

Ihlara Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient LandDuring the 7th century Byzantine monks settled in the valley whilst fleeing from roman persecution and dug their homes and churches in the rock formed by tuff (volcanic ash). With the valley becoming home to approx. 50 monolithic churches and many other rock cut structures built into the side of the rock walls along the valley.

Descending nearly 400 stairs we reach the valley floor and walking trail that meanders alongside the small Melendiz River.

It’s an easy walk along the well maintained path; however frequent stopping is a must as you look up to see the uniqueness and natural beauty of the surroundings.

Ihlara Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Letting my eyes wander as I look around me, to see others closer to the entrance of a number of cave dwellings, or maybe just one dwelling with various layers that shows how big the dwellings are, or how small the people I can are.

Following the path we made our way to the Ağaçaltı Church. One of 14 churches open to visitors in the Ihlara valley.

Ağaçaltı Church Ihlara Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

The main entrance of the Ağaçaltı Church is underground, so we enter through what is referred to as the second floor and our eyes soon feast on the remarkably well preserved frescoes, dated from the 9th – 11th century.

Built around the year 800, the rear of the church is built into the side of the rock canyon wall and is surrounded by a large tree that also gives the church the name ‘The Church under the Tree’.

One of the impressive and detailed frescoes within the church show Daniel in the lion den, which also reflects other names given to the church, being ‘The church of Daniel’, ‘Saint Daniel’, ‘Daniel Pantonassa church’, or simple ‘Pantonassa church’.

The dome above shows frescoes of the ascension of Jesus surrounded by prophets and apostles around the dome rim. Other colourful and detailed frescoes, include ‘the Domination of the virgin Mary’, ‘the Baptism of Christ’, ‘the arrival of three astrologers’ and ‘the flight into Egypt’.

Ihlara Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Further along the path that also runs close by the Melendiz River and what becomes approx. 4km we pass by hermit caves, various dwellings and rock hewn churches cut into the valley walls.

Archaeological records suggest that the Ihlara valley was once home to many cave churches, with as many as 100 having been excavated and more than 4000 rock dwellings.

Ihlara Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

It’s certainly a fascinating and picturesque natural walk through the Ihlara valley as you pass many ancient sites.

Belisırma Village Ihlara Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient LandArriving at the half way point of the hiking trail and the village of Belisarma, a historically Greek village that hugs the curves of the Melendiz River where we stop for lunch at the Birol’un Yeri restaurant and a delightful setting right by the river.

Of the many churches dotted along the Ihara Valley, the small settlement of Belisarma is home to seven churches built during the 10th – 12th century when Greek monks first settled in the immediate area and began expanding their settlements along the Melendiz River.

With the unfolding of time the medieval Turkish Empire, known as the Seljuk Empire then took over the surrounding land area of central Anatolia. It was during the 1070’s when they became the ruling empire until 1300, bringing with them the Islamic religion and what became Turkish cultural and the demise of 1,500 years of Hellenistic and 800 years of Christian settlement together with replacing the long standing Greek language with the Turkish language. Only to then be overthrown by the Mongol Army in 1240’s, before evolving into the Ottoman Empire.

Belisırma River Restaurant Birol'un Yeri Belisırma Village Ihlara Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

The Belisirma restaurant provided an enjoyable lunch in a relaxing setting that is surrounded by layers of history.

Belisırma River Restaurant Birol'un Yeri Belisırma Village Ihlara Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

From Belisarma it was a short 10 minute drive passing through the village of Yaprakhisar to the village of Selime and the end point of the Ihlara Valley; to reach the highest, largest and most imposing rock cut religious building in the Cappadocia area – the Selime Monastery.

Selime Monastery | Ihlara Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Perched high on the volcanic rock, the Selime Monastery dates back to the 8th or 9th century BC and resembles a castle within its well preserved fortress style walls, that includes a cathedral size church cut from the volcanic laver tuffs. Archaeology finds show earlier civilisations were present on this ancient land, including the Hittite Empire (4400 – 4100 BC), Assyrian Empire (2100 – 700 BC), Persian empire (550 – 330 BC), Alexander’s Hellenistic empire (323 – 64 BC), whilst continuous battles were fought with the Roman, Armenian, Parthian and Palmyrene Empires (88 BC – 300) that then led to the early Christian inhabitant period.

Selime Monastery Ihlara Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Walking within the Selime Monastery lower entrance to ascend many rock cut passageways that twists to join steeper rock stairways and ladders.

Selime Monastery Ihlara Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

The Selime Monastery was the regional home to clergy as a training centre. The monastery complex was partitioned into three sections separated by rock archways and columns, with kitchens and stables for stock, together with the monks living quarters were many time worn 10th and early 11th century frescoes, now barely visible once adorned the walls.

Selime Monastery Ihlara Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

With the arrival of the Ottoman Empire, shortly after the 10/11th century the monastery was converted to a Caravanserai and offered refuge for the many travellers and traders who journeyed along the Silk Road to promote trade along the once ancient road until faster sea trade routes were discovered that lead to the abandonment of the Selime Monastery in the 16th century.

Selime Monastery Ihlara Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Below and across the road from the Selime Monastery lies the small village of Selime and the local cemetery with the conical Monumental Tomb of Selime Sultan dated to the early 13th century.

Whilst behind the car park stands the abandoned ruins of the original Greek village, known as Salamis that formed around the base of the monastery.

It’s been a remarkably interesting and soulful day traversing a small part of this ancient land.

Tomorrow is another day.

Day two of our four night stay and we’re up early…really early for a scheduled hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia’s peppered past on ancient land.

We’re soon advised that the seasonal change brings higher than desirable winds and our scheduled hot air balloon ride has been cancelled. However, not all is lost as the tour company has made arrangements for us to have a full day private tour to visit more of the wonders of the surrounding areas in Cappadocia as compensation. I’ve happily enjoyed hot air balloon rides in other parts of the world, so I’m delighted to be on the ground to enjoy learning and experiencing more of the wonder that is Cappadocia.

Evil Eye Tree Pigeon Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Our first stop for the day was the Göreme panoramic viewpoint, the highest point of the Göreme township and the evil eye tree, known as Nazar Boncul in Turkish and κακό μάτι or simply as μάτι (mati), “eye” in Greek. Many of us have heard the saying, term; someone is giving you the evil eye. The origins of the term comes from the Greeks who believe that being given the evil eye was a curse that was given to someone with a malicious glare that is said to give bad luck or loss to whoever receives the evil eye look.

Standing at the panoramic viewpoint and looking out across the Pigeon Valley under a haunting sky was a sure reminder that the scheduled hot air balloon wasn’t meant to be.

The darkened sky cleared and blue sky with light patches of cloud provided a clearer view of the colourful and unique fairy chimney landscape of the Pigeon Valley, also known as Guvercinlik Vadisi.

Pigeon Valley is named from the countless man made dovecotes that were carved into the soft volcanic tuff by the early inhabitants and housed their pigeons to carry messages. However, the pigeons also served as food, whilst their feathers were used similarly how feathers are used in pillows etc today. Our guide shares that the pigeon droppings were an important contribution to enrich and fertilise the soil to grow various crops, including grape vines and the pigeon droppings were also used as a material to create a number of the more vibrant coloured frescoes seen in some of the rock cut churches.

Pigeon Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

A closer look reveals the carved out dovecotes above the windows and doorways of the rock cut dwellings.

The humble pigeon no longer has such an integral and important role in the valley, however their rock cut homes are still maintained by locals, with some locals wholeheartedly believing that the pigeon droppings is the reason for some of the best wines in the Cappadocia region.

Pigeon Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Turning to look towards a different view of Pigeon valley reveals more uniquely coloured natural formations and the backdrop to the township of Göreme.

Uchisar Castle | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Pigeon Valley lies between the townships of Göreme and Uchisar and spans approx. 3 km.

With the main feature of Uchisar being the Uchisar Castle that is perched atop the highest point in the Cappadocia region overlooking Pigeon Valley. Paying the small entrance fee we made our way along a path that leads through a cave and onward up approx. 100 steps that wide around and hug the outside natural walls of the rock cut castle.

Ascending the heights of Uchisar Castle | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Having ascended the heights of the Uchisar Castle impressive views await that overlooks the tops of the fairy chimneys on the fringe of the town of Uchisar and in the distance, Mt Erciyes. While looking around in all directions from the top to find that the Uchisar Fortress offers spectacular views across the various valleys, including the

Views of the Rose Valley from Uchisar Castle | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Rose Valley.

Views from Uchisar Castle | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

And a closer look at the modern day village of Uchisar, with each view showing the diversity of the landscape in each direction.

Down to the Old village of Uchisar | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Descending the rock path staircase leads to many smaller churches and dwellings that are found dotted throughout the landscape around the ancient and now abandoned village at the foothills of the castle that were occupied during the 15th -16th centuries.

Old village of Uchisar | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

When the threat of attack from an imposing enemy was approaching the villagers would ascend and take refuge in the castle. Today, some of these dwellings and churches are used as dovecotes by local farmers.

Göreme Open Air Museum | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Our morning has turned to afternoon and we make our way to the Göreme Open Air Museum.

The area now known as Göreme has changed throughout history. During antiquity the Göreme valley was known as Kòrama by the ancient Greeks, and changed to Matiana; then with the arrival of the Armenian Christians it was renamed Macan. Following Turkish rule of modern day Turkey the area changed name again and was known as Avcilar, before renaming the area to the present name Göreme; meaning ‘unseen’, and represents the many rock carved churches that are built into the walls found throughout the Göreme valley.

The present name Göreme was also given when the area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. The area of Göreme is approx. 100 km 2 and consists of the modern day Göreme Open Air Museum (formerly Kòrama) and the modern name Göreme village (formerly known as Matiana/Macan).

Our guide advised he would come back just on closing time to take us back to Göreme village, or alternatively it was an easy 15 minutes walk to the village.  We choose to walk and confirmed arrangements for the following day to take in more of the hypnotic and mesmerising landscape of Cappadocia.

The detailed content of the rock cut churches and monasteries that can be visited within the Göreme Open Air Museum can be found here, “Monastic Life in what is now Göreme Open Air Museum” blog post that also includes insights of the demise of the Byzantine monastic cultural that today provides an opportunity for you and I and others to experience and appreciate.

The detailed blog post content of the “Monastic Life in what is now Göreme Open Air Museum” is also available as a downloadable Soul Travel Guide e-Booklet for the price of a coffee here.

Göreme Open Air Museum | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Having appreciated and enjoyed our time within the Göreme Open Air Museum, it’s nearing 5.00 pm closing time so we make our way back walking to the village centre of Göreme.

Göreme village | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Stopping by to look in a carpet ware shop or two and popping into a local fruit and vegetable shop to pick up some fruit.

Alatura Restaurant Göreme Village | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

A late afternoon leisurely stroll before heading out to dinner and deciding to eat at Alaturca. It’s been a full day and there’s more to come tomorrow.

Meeting with our guide the following day for our third day and he’s arranged another full day of sightseeing more of the Cappadocia region and a visit to the village of Avanos.

However, having heard about other rock caved churches the day before, I asked was it possible to visit the El Nazar Church in the Zemi Valley.

Of course, was our guides reply; it’s on the way and close by the township of Göreme.

El Nazar Church, Zemi Valley, Göreme | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

The El Nazar Church is located in the Zemi Valley a short 10 – 15 minute drive from the township of Göreme and is part of the greater area of the Göreme Open Air Museum.

Unlike the many rock carved churches seen the previous day within the Göreme Open Air Museum, the El Nazar church, El Nazar Kilise (Turkish) stands alone and is carved into a coned shaped fairy chimney.

El Nazar Church, Zemi Valley, Göreme | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

The church has been dated to the late 900s, therefore earlier than many of the churches located in the same condensed area of the Göreme Open Air Museum, yet has many of the same frescoes. Frescoes devoted to various biblical scenes cover sections of the interior walls, and frescoes of the ascension are shown in the ceiling of the central dome.

However, it’s the location setting that makes the El Nazar church unique as is the distinguishing feature having been carved from a single cone shaped fairy chimney.

Nevşehir Göreme Panorama | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Leaving the El Nazar church our guide then travels back along the road to Göreme. We then made our way towards the township of Avanos, however enroute we had an opportunity to stop to enjoy the majestic and panoramic views of fairy chimney formations looking like swirling soft serve ice cream tops across the horizon out in the direction of a small settlement that was on the way to the township of Nevşehir.

Driving in the direction of Nevşehir, before making a turn on the outskirts and heading in the direction of Avanos our guide shares some historical and important insights of Nevşehir that is located within the greater Cappadocia region.

During the Byzantine and Roman periods, the township was known as Neapolis; a Greek word meaning New City.

As with other locations in the Cappadocia region during the 1923 human population exchange, the Turkish speaking Greek Orthodox population of (modern day) Nevşehir were exchanged with the Turkish Muslim population from villages located in the Western Macedonia region of Greece.

Our guide also shares that, with the increasing interest in the many locations across the Cappadocia region, in 2015 the township of Nevşehir was undergoing a project of modernisation. During the demolition and removal of derelict dwellings on the central hillside a huge underground city was found that lay beneath the modern township foundations.

Love Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

We were still on our way to the township of Avanos, when another opportunity presented with our guide suggesting we had time to make a slight detour to visit the Love Valley, also known as Aşıklar Vadisi (Turkish).

Like many valleys across the Cappadocia region, the Love (Bagildere, Turkish) Valley has been inhabited by many and varied cultural since antiquity, including the Hittites, Persians and Greeks seeking places of worship and refuge during the Roman and Turkish period of occupation and persecution.

Love Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Evidence of habitation can be seen throughout the valley that continues the ongoing progression of erosion from wind and rain that has formed the uniquely shaped phallic fairy chimneys over 60 million years, and with some fairy chimneys reaching as high as 40 meters.

Our guide shares the local folklore legend around the creation of these unique fairy chimneys, of which can also be found online. Credit to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki

“There goes a legend that there once was two dynasties living in the same village. A fight broke out between the two dynasties, which resulted in the village effectively being split. One day, two villagers complained about the situation which resulted in the recruitment of two people from opposing sides. The two recruited soldiers fell in love with each other as soon as they saw each other. The feuding villagers, having had knowledge of this, tried their best to separate the two but failed. After they struggled to separate the two, the villagers decided to get them married. Time passed, the couple had a child, however the situation wasn’t enough to reconcile the opposing families. Finally, they killed the boy. The girl couldn’t stand her husband’s death and later committed suicide. It is said that after the death of the two lovers, God rained stones to punish the feuding villagers. These stones are to kill anyone who opposes the reunion of youth.”

An interesting folktale and aptly named valley together with breathtaking views of a surreal landscape and uniquely shaped rock formations.

Rose Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Continuing on to the township of Avanos and you guessed, another opportunity to stop and admire more of the beauty of this ancient land. The unique meringue style fairy chimney tops of the Rose Valley, also known as Güllü Dere (Turkish) with its pink hues.

The Rose Valley, like many areas across the Cappadocia region was also a monastic area, with a monastery, a number of churches, burial sites and also a number of fairy chimneys that were carved into the peak creating private dwelling living space for the more prominent Greek clergy who choose to live in solitude.

Rose Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

The ground level dwellings carved into the fairy chimneys were for other people who lived in the area. The area of the ancient Rose Valley dates to between 800 – 1000 AD.

The unplanned opportunity to see and learn more of the greater area and captivating Cappadocia region was certainly a welcome opportunity. This ancient landscape is peppered with such truly unique and stunningly diverse natural beauty.

We arrived in Avanos, a township that is renowned for being the centre of clay pottery in Turkey. Together with the township of Nevşehir, these two modern day townships once formed a part of the ancient Silk Road trade route. As far back as 1300 BC during the Hittites settlement in the Cappadocia region people were making beautiful pottery.

The Kiziliirmak (Turkish) River, meaning Red River is the longest river in Turkey and runs through the township and is the source of the mineral rich red clay that is found along the banks of the river used to make the pottery.  During ancient times the river was known as Halys, whilst during the Hittite period the river was known as Marassantiya. To this day local artisans are found digging the clay directly from the riverbanks.

Traditionally, throughout the ages pottery was made for practical household items, including plates, bowls and jugs. The local artisans in Avanos continue to use traditional techniques, to demonstrate their skill and expertise of pottery making that has been handed down throughout the generations. Many of the traditional family run pottery workshops can still be found in the ubiquitous caves that Cappadocia is known for.  Yet with the passing of time, other family run businesses have transitioned to more modern facilities that provide better working conditions of lighting for the skilled hands that adorn the handmade clay pieces with traditional Anatolian patterns and motifs.

Our guide takes us to one of the family owned and operated potteries to witness the mesmerising and skilful accuracy and speed of a potter create a jug from a lump of red clay whilst spinning the kick wheel by foot and presenting a finished piece in minutes, to then be sent to the drying room in preparation to be fired in a kiln.

Avanos Handmade Pottery Workshop | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

I learn that the art of pottery in Avanos is deeply intertwined with the region’s cultural heritage. Specifically, the history, propose and serving ceremonies and ritual of the uniquely designed Hittite Wine Jug (Vessel/Decanter).  The decanter was used to serve “red’ wine with a dash of spice, like glove. The decanter was then placed on a stand outside where the natural sunlight, during sunset would pass through the circular hole of the decanter and bless the wine. Those drinking the wine believed the ritual of drinking the scared wine enabled the sunlight to enter their body, thus giving good health. The decanter is served two different ways depending on the guests being served. When serving friends, the decanter is held at the server’s wrist through the circular shaped hole, whilst when serving special guests, the decanter is held at the server shoulder through the circular shaped hole, enabling the server to bow as a show of respect when serving special guests.

We then had an opportunity to witness the decorative artisans skilfully hand draw and paint pieces of pottery. On this occasion watching an artesian skilfully decorate a large serving circular platter.

A rewarding experience to witness the art of ancient practices being skilfully upheld by very talented master potters. Walking through to the showroom, your eyes feast on an array of shapes, designs and colour that provide an opportunity to spend time wandering and admiring the beautiful pieces of art. With the introduction of tourism, many replicated designs are mass produced and offered at lower costs, however when looking for a unique and handmade piece, the choices are endless.

Whilst the special riverbed red clay is an important contribution to the beautifully crafted pottery pieces, so too is the experience that begins with a young boy of around seven/eight years of age watching and learning from a skilled male family member to become the next generation of master pottery craftsmen.

Our guide also shares additional important factors that contribute to the skilful local traditions of the Avanos pottery. This being that in the past parents didn’t give their daughters in marriage to a man who didn’t know how to craft pottery. Nor was a son to wed a girl who didn’t know how to weave.

Avanos Handmade Silk Carpet Workshop | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient LandBefore leaving Avanos we choose to visit one of the many local handmade silk carpet workshops. The practice of silk or wool carpet weaving is centuries old with traditional methods unlike the art of pottery making from male to male, is passed down from mother to daughter.

Turkish rugs are made from high quality materials, like the humble silkworm that feeds on a Mulberry tree. Each silkworm produces one single strand, approx. 100 metres that is dyed using natural plants, such as walnut shells, quince leaves, wild apricot roots, and grape seeds to create long lasting and colourful thread.

Avanos Handmade Silk Carpet Workshop | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Carpets are handmade on traditional wooden looms and the intricate patterns are reflective of the regions culturally rich heritage.

After the number of unanticipated stops along the way to reach Avanos, it was certainly worth visiting this traditional township to experience and learn about the ancient local practices that continue to this day by talented and skilful artisans.

We pick up a bite to eat before leaving Avanos and our guide then drives us the short distance to the Zelve Open Air Museum and the Pasabag (Paşabağları, meaning the general’s vineyard, Turkish) Valley, located nearby to the village of Çavuşin.

Pasabag Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

At the foot of Göreme’s highest butte are some of the most dramatic rock foundations that have formed like tall pillars wearing dark conical caps clustered close together.

This valley is also known as the Monk Valley in reference to Saint Simeon. Saint Simeon is believed to have lived in the valley as a hermit who sought peace and quiet from those who had heard of his prayers and insights.

St. Simeon Church Pasabag Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

The church dedicated to Saint Simeon in the Pasabag Valley was carved into one of the large solitary cone shaped pillar style formations with three heads.

Saint Simeon was born in 390 near what is modern Aleppo in Syria. Having converted to Christianity at a very early age, believed to be 13 and entered into monastery life before the age of 16, he was subsequently requested to leave the monastery having been judged to be unsuited for Christian community life. He then became the first stylite, also known as pillar hermit who preached sermons atop a ‘pillar’ a word that comes from the ancient Greek word “stele”, to those who sought his wisdom.

In his home country of Syria, a ruined church surrounded by four basilicas was built in 475 following his death in 459, known as the Fortress of Simeon (Qalaat Samaan, Arabic) approx. 30km drive from Aleppo. The site of the complex was built around a lone pillar ruin that also formed a small platform where Saint Simeon is said to have spent 37 years.

Saint Simeon’s feast day is commemorated 1 September by the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches and 5 January by the Roman Catholic Church.

Pasabag Fairy Chimneys Ürgüp | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

The valleys of Cappadocia are home to many varied and exceptional natural fairy chimney formations, and yet the uniqueness found in the Pasabag Valley is truly remarkable. With the passing of time many of these natural formations have fallen with the consistent erosion by weather. Whilst many still stand and transform their shapes to become adjoining mushroom shaped formations with single, double or triple caps.

Pasabag Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Then there are other much larger formations that are in an infancy stage of the millennia long period of transformation, awaiting the support of the weather.

Leaving the Zelve Open Air Museum our guide then drives the short distance to the Devrent Valley, the last stop of our three days experiencing the amzingness, uniqueness and truly remarkable natural landscape with a peppered past on ancient land.

Devrent Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

The Devrent Valley, also known as Dervent Valey of Imagination valley is unlike many valleys in Cappadocia, this valley has never been inhabited by people.

As such the Devrent Valley doesn’t have any historical monastic sites, ancient castles, nor are there cave dwellings or dovecotes. This valley however is renowned for its unique smaller rock formations packed tightly together like a lunarscape.

Devrent Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Together with interesting fairy chimneys that capture visitors with whimsical shape formations that resembling animals that opens ones imagination.

Devrent Valley | Cappadocia - A Peppered Past on Ancient Land

Like the camel shaped formation that can be seen from the road before entering the valley.

The beauty of the Devrent Valley stands apart for other sites in Cappadocia and provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in its 60 million year old natural landscape amongst the earth’s pillars and rock formations, and provides your imagination with wonder as you explore and enjoy wandering through the valley.

The richness of the wider Cappadocia region, its natural beauty, early habitation dating back to the Palaeolithic era, to cites carved below the ground, monastic life above the ground to refugee havens from persecution and a course of unjust, unrest that led to an amazing human exchange, shows both the evolving power of nature and the power of human perseverance throughout the many empires that bring us to, today.

Tomorrow is another day, or a return to Istanbul.

This blog is the fourth in series of posts sharing my travels in Turkey and one of many that I have written in sharing the personal journeys that have enriched my life and broadened my knowledge and understanding of the richness and diversity of our shared world. Experiencing the gifts of a new outer landscape in a new country that evokes ones senses in many and varied ways, and provides offerings of reflection that is awakening the inner landscape.

Embracing the lessons and learning’s that a new outer landscape gives is one of life’s inspirational mysteries. Yet our personal horoscope offers valuable insights that guide each of us with acknowledging the lessons and integrating the learning’s through the practice of Astrocartography, Where Location Matters.

Below you’ll find a personal account of how and why Astrocartography is a valuable guide to support the awakening of your inner landscape. See how together with your personal horoscope and Astrocartography you can incorporate the outer and inner landscapes.

Book you Astrocartography, Where Location Matters today, here and awakening your inner knowing to the locations that are calling you.

Thank you for taking the time to read and I hope that I bring some inspiration (if needed) to visit this amazing and magical part of the world. Leave a comment and let me know, and visit A Soul Awakening to subscribe and receive new blog posts as they become available.

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5 Comments

  • Katie

    WOW! I have never heard of Cappadocia. But I am intrigued. It looks unreal, almost like a set from a movie. Thank you for such a detailed post!

  • Under flowery sky

    Such a natural wonder and cave system, Capadoccia is fascinating.
    Amazing perspective to get the new point of view to Capadoccia..

  • Taylor

    What a great overview! I’ll be in Turkey this summer and am considering visiting Cappadocia depending on time. Great to see what more there is to see and do in the area. The food looks incredible.

  • Felicia

    What a fascinating Unesco site. So much history and war. I can’t imagine discovering your home was secretly connected to a lost city! Thanks for sharing!

  • Josy A

    Fantastic post! What an amazing area. I really love that you got to learn so much about the history, then walk through it aaand finish with tasty food! It is really interesting seeing the different types of hoodoos, and all those crazy shapes. It blows my mind that they had 20 levels of excavated underground city to hide in. It must have taken so, soooo long to carve out!

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